I rushed up the small busted-up asphalt embankment to where Kimberly sat nursing fresh wounds.
In the time it took me to get from point A to point B her face went from “well, I’m effed,” to “eff this. I’m finishing no matter what.”
I plopped down beside her. Angela and Kyra were already there helping out. “What happened, Kim?” I asked.
“I just twisted my ankle and had a hard fall. I’ll be okay.” I looked over at her son. He had distanced himself from the group so as not to be in the way, but kept his concerned eyes squarely rooted on his mother. Kim’s forearm was badly scraped and her ankle was beginning to swell.
“Are you…” Sure would have been the next word out of my mouth if she hadn’t looked at me with that look that says, I’ve got this, and don’t try to tell me I don’t.
I pulled the shoe off of Kim’s hurt ankle and one shoe of my own. I took one of my ankle braces off which I was wearing for stability and slipped her foot into it. One of the volunteers on our team had wrap-tape so we gave it an extra layer of that to make sure she would be stable for the next 9 miles or so. I glanced over at her son as Kim and I got to our feet. The worry disappeared from his face as his mom started walking again. Kim gave him a look that said, a stupid ankle injury isn’t gonna take your mama down! and we were on our way.
The next several miles and hours were incredible. One obstacle at a time, I gloried in the fears that my own teammates were each overcoming.
It seemed that at just about every obstacle, a new teammate was quietly pulling me aside, asking me how to face whatever big fear was starting to consume them. And at every obstacle, I saw every teammate who had any major fear at all get through it, and come out both smiling and teary-eyed on the other side.
One of the more difficult obstacles was a new one for all of us. “Birth Canal.” It is an obstacle which tests those with claustrophobia and pushes teammates to realize just how their attempts at making it easier on themselves actually makes it harder on their comrades.
It’s a simple enough looking obstacle. But it is freaky as hell when you’re going through it. Each person must inch their way through small tunnels underneath giant hanging bags of heavy liquid. The liquid presses you into the ground and makes you feel like you could be smothered if you don’t get out. But here’s the caveat. There are usually 2-3 people going through at any time, and if you kneel up while you’re inside, or push the liquid too forcefully off of you in your panic, it rushes to the low areas in front of you and behind you, crushing your teammates even more. Fun, right? Yes, we paid to do this crap.
And this one freaked out a good portion of our team; one of those people being Sophi.
Seven months ago.
Sophi flew to Utah to be a cheerleader for our team. She didn’t think there was any way she could possibly do a Tough Mudder, and she was certainly in no shape for it. We all became good friends that weekend, and somehow in our drunken post-Mudder fun she (along with Rich who was in the exact same boat) committed to begin training and join us this year. True to her word, she trained, she showed up.
And The Birth Canal freaked her right the heck out. She heard people panicking inside. She heard teammates yelling frantically at each other in desperation as the liquid had its way with them. And her eyes got bigger. And bigger. And bigger. Her breathing got heavier. She began panicking at the continued thought of it.
Eventually she approached me and told me she didn’t think that she could do it at all. I put my arm all the way around her, gave her a squeeze, and told her it would be like a big ol’ bear hug inside. “What you need is a plan,” I told her. “So let’s do this together…”
And the plan was to make sure that nobody was in front of us in the obstacle, and that I stayed right behind her.
We let the obstacle clear out in front of us, I one-arm hugged the now completely terrified Sophi once more, and without much more thinking she dropped down on all fours, and she went for it.